Sweet and white potato casserole

Sweet potatoes, diced, 2 large
White (prefer Yukon gold) potatoes, diced, 2 large
Sweet yellow (Vidalia) onions, diced, 1 medium
Pancetta, diced (you can reasonably substitute bacon in this case), 1/4 lb or as much as desired (you just have to ask yourself how you like bacon...)
Brown sugar, 1-2 tbsp
Olive oil, 2 tbsp
Butter, 2 tbsp
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1. Fry the diced pancetta in a pan.
2. Add the onions to the same pan and caramelize the onions in brown sugar and a little olive oil and butter.
2. Add additional butter and olive oil and allow to melt.
3. Grease baking dish with butter and place diced potatoes in dish.
4. Pour onion and pancetta mixture over the potatoes.
5. Bake at 375˚F for about an hour.

Serves: approximately 4 people

The story:
My grandmother Mary with
my father (left) and my uncle (right), c. 1952
During my many years living in the South (ages 16 through 26), I often visited or passed through Virginia Beach, where my grandmother Mary (my father's mother) lives and where my father grew up. I even lived with her during the summer of 2001 - the aforementioned Summer of Food - an adventure for us both, since we have similarly strong personalities! One challenge we ran into frequently surrounded food. I was as skeptical of her cooking as a (then-) picky Italian-American girl could be - at least one who wouldn't touch American cheese or bread with a ten-foot pole, who started ANY cooking by drizzling olive oil into something, and whose heart nearly stopped every time she heard "pasta" pronounced with a short A. For her part, my grandmama (as she was always referred to by my summer research supervisor, in her gentle Jamaican accent) was equally skeptical of restaurants, where she usually found either the food or the noise not to her liking. Consequently, I tended to select family-owned Asian restaurants, where I found the teenaged grandchildren of the owners to be highly sympathetic to my plight. But we did venture out to other places, and one success story was the Cobalt Grille (though admittedly, I haven't been back in more than a few years now). When we requested, upon arrival, that the music be turned down, they complied immediately and without eye-rolling. And they served a delicious side of sweet and white potatoes, onion, bacon, and (I suspected) a LOT of butter, which I reconstructed into this...I couldn't help myself on the olive oil.

I realized when I sat down to write this out that it has been awhile since I made it - so thanks to my amazingly gifted mom for remembering one of the few recipes that I passed on to her. Happy Easter and happy birthday!

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